A chemical profiling strategy for semi-quantitative analysis of flavonoids in Ginkgo extracts

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Flavonoids analysis in herbal products is challenged by their vast chemical diversity. This work aimed to develop a chemical profiling strategy for the semi-quantification of flavonoids using extracts of Ginkgo biloba L. (EGB) as an example. The strategy was based on the principle that flavonoids in EGB have an almost equivalent molecular absorption coefficient at a fixed wavelength. As a result, the molecular-contents of flavonoids were able to be semi-quantitatively determined by the molecular-concentration calibration curves of common standards and recalculated as the mass-contents with the characterized molecular weight (MW). Twenty batches of EGB were subjected to HPLC-UV/DAD/MS fingerprinting analysis to test the feasibility and reliability of this strategy. The flavonoid peaks were distinguished from the other peaks with principle component analysis and Pearson correlation analysis of the normalized UV spectrometric dataset. Each flavonoid peak was subsequently tentatively identified by the MS data to ascertain their MW. It was highlighted that the flavonoids absorption at Band-II (240–280 nm) was more suitable for the semi-quantification purpose because of the less variation compared to that at Band-I (300–380 nm). The semi-quantification was therefore conducted at 254 nm. Beyond the qualitative comparison results acquired by common chemical profiling techniques, the semi-quantitative approach presented the detailed compositional information of flavonoids in EGB and demonstrated how the adulteration of one batch was achieved. The developed strategy was believed to be useful for the advanced analysis of herbal extracts with a high flavonoid content without laborious identification and isolation of individual components.

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